Labor Rights

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Collection

Beba Idelson

Beba Idelson was an Israeli politician and dedicated Zionist activist. She served as a member of the Knesset for sixteen years and was instrumental in shaping the character of the State of Israel, especially as it pertained to women’s rights.

Histadrut Nashim Ivriot (Hebrew Women's Organization)

The Hebrew Women’s Organization was one of the most successful and widespread Zionist women’s organizations to originate in Palestine, rather than North America or Europe. It focused on providing healthcare, social work, and other aid to poor and immigrant women and children across the Yishuv.

Historians in the United States

American Jewish women have made important contributions to historical scholarship, especially in the arenas of social history of the United States and Europe, women’s history, and Jewish history. Jewish women, sensitive to the situations of minority groups, became pioneers in these fields as they developed from the 1970s on.

Dorothea Hirschfeld

Too old, not properly educated, a member of the Social-Democrat Party, and a Jewish woman, Dorothea Hirschfeld nevertheless succeeded in entering the civil service at the age of forty-three. She directed the Berlin Center for Social Work and Care of the Poor in Berlin from 1924 to 1929, and despite being pushed out of work by the Nazis, survived deportation and remained in Germany until her death in 1966.

Jenny Hirsch

Born to an impoverished Jewish family, Jenny Hirsch became very involved with the German women’s movement as a writer and editor. She served both as secretary and editor of the monthly journal for the Lette Society, an alliance of German associations related to women’s work.

Rivka Guber

Through her work as a soldier, writer, teacher, and volunteer supporting immigrants, Rivka Guber exhibited selflessness for her neighbors and for the young State of Israel as a whole, earning her the title “Mother of the Sons” and the respect of the nation.

Selina Greenbaum

Selina Greenbaum was a philanthropist who created recreational resorts for overworked factory girls. In 1890, Greenbaum became the founding president of the Jewish Working Girl’s Vacation Society, which gave working young women a chance to find relief away from their demanding factory jobs.

Edna Goldsmith

Edna Goldsmith was a driving force in the establishment of the Ohio Federation of Temple Sisterhoods. A founder of the federation, she served as its first president from 1918 to 1923 and then as honorary president until her death. Throughout her life, Goldsmith was active in welfare organizations, concentrating particularly in the educational field.

Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman was a potent voice of anarchism in North America and Europe in the early twentieth century, and her controversial beliefs made her many powerful enemies. Yet even after enduring many contentious interactions with law enforcement, Goldman continued to speak, write, and teach on freedom and individual rights, inspiring her followers to question authority at every turn.

Josephine Clara Goldmark

Josephine Goldmark laid the groundwork for transforming American labor laws by amassing data that forced lawmakers to confront the painful realities of factory work. At the National Consumers’ League, she compiled data on working conditions, wrote articles, led campaigns for legislative reform, and recruited her brother-in-law, Louis D. Brandeis, to argue for those reforms in court.

Pauline Goldmark

Pauline Goldmark was a social worker and activist, part of a group of women seeking the vote and reforms of the urban and industrial excesses of the early twentieth century. A pioneer in methods of social research central to reform efforts, Goldmark was indispensable to labor rights initiatives.

Mire Gola

A passionate idealist, Mire Gola organized anti-German resistance in World War II as a Communist in occupied Poland. She inspired others with her eloquent poetry and her fortitude through imprisonment and torture.

Ruth Gay

Through her writing, Ruth Glazer Gay captured an engaging view of the Jewish community, both past and present. As a writer, journalist, and archivist, she demonstrated throughout her life the possibility of having an intellectually vibrant career while still accommodating marriage and motherhood.

Helene Gans

Active throughout the twentieth century in the labor and consumer rights movements, Helene Gans devoted her life to improving the lives of working Americans.

Esther Frumkin

Esther Frumkin was the pseudonym of the Jewish educator, writer, and socialist-turned-communist Malkah Lifchitz. Active in the Russian and later Soviet leftist political scene in the early twentieth century, Frumkin was an independent thinker and a unique woman in the Jewish labor movement. However, she drew criticism from both Jewish and Communist leaders and died in a Soviet detention camp in 1943.

Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan was the author of a pathbreaking feminist book, The Feminine Mystique, which sold millions of copies and helped to provoke a feminist movement in the United States. She was an activist and writer who hoped to improve women’s lives by co-founding the National Organization for Women and other women’s political groups. Her many books focused on women’s rights, the women’s movement, and aging.

Feminism in the United States

Jewish women participated in and propelled all aspects of the women's rights movement, from suffrage in the nineteenth century to women's liberation in the twentieth. Despite occasional instances of antisemitism in the general feminist movement, Jewish women were passionate advocates of feminist goals.

Sandra Feldman

Sandra Feldman dedicated her career to protecting the rights of educators as the first woman president of both New York City’s Union Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

Emma Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women's Clubs

The Emma Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women's Clubs, or ELF, was a women's group inspired by the humanistic spirit of poet Emma Lazarus. The clubs worked through education and outreach to promote a progressive, secular Jewish heritage, as well as causes such as women's rights and the elimination of antisemitism and racism.

Eastern European Immigrants in the United States

Forty-four percent of the approximately two million Jewish immigrants who arrived in the United States between 1886 and 1914 were women. Although these women were more politically active and autonomous than other immigrant women, dire economic circumstances constricted their lives. The hopes these immigrant women harbored for themselves were often transferred to the younger generation.

Devar Ha-Po'elet

Devar ha’Po’elet, the magazine of the women worker’s movement, was founded in 1934 by Rahel Katznelson-Shazar, a prominent activist of the Council of Women Workers. The magazine was intended as an educational tool, through which the movement aimed to communicate the essential characteristics of the new Hebrew woman.

Modern Dance Performance in the United States

Jewish immigrants to the New World brought with them their ritual and celebratory Jewish dances, but these traditional forms of Jewish dance waned in the United States. Working-class and poor Jewish immigrants parents sought out culture and education in the arts for their children, often as a vehicle for assimilation. Jewish women were particularly attracted to the field of modern dance.

Fannia M. Cohn

Fannia M. Cohn was one of the leading Jewish women trade union activists in the United States. Drawing on her Russian Jewish cultural traditions, she pioneered the development of educational programs within the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU).

Canada: From Outlaw to Supreme Court Justice, 1738-2005

The positive aspect of the Canadian mosaic has been a strong Jewish community (and other communities) which nurtured traditional ethnic and religious values and benefited from the talent and energy of women and men restrained from participation in the broader society. The negative aspect has included considerable antisemitism and, especially for women, the sometimes stifling narrowness and conservatism of the community which inhibited creative and exceptional people from charting their own individual paths.

Bund

Jewish women played leading roles in the formative years of the General Jewish Workers’ Bund, which was established in the Tsarist Empire in 1897, and initially participated in the movement in large numbers. However, the Bund had somewhat less success in mobilizing women in independent Poland between the two world wars than it had during the Tsarist era.

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